Blazers, Lakers collide riding season-highs
The Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season heading into their game Monday night at Staples Center.
The Trail Blazers have won a season-high six in a row and the Lakers a season-best five straight. Portland has won 14 consecutive games overall against Los Angeles, tied for its second-longest winning streak against the Lakers in franchise history.
Portland's current six-game run began with a 123-117 win against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Feb. 14, and most recently continued with a 108-100 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
The victory against the Thunder gave the Trail Blazers (37-26) sole possession of third place in the Western Conference, but just a half game in front of the Minnesota Timberwolves and a game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder.
"It's nice, but it doesn't really do anything for us right now," Portland guard C.J. McCollum told reporters after the Oklahoma City win. "To finish third 20 games from now would be great, but we have a long way to go. We've got a lot of games left to be played, and I'm really looking forward to the challenge of us continuing to stick together defensively, continuing to stick to our principles and come away with close wins."
The Trail Blazers haven't won seven straight games since a nine-game winning streak in November 2014.
The Lakers (28-34) have made a major turnaround since they last played Portland on Dec. 23, a 95-92 loss at Staples Center that was the second defeat in a season-long nine-game losing streak. A major difference between then and now is rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is healthy and playing much better than he did the first three months of the season.
Ball is averaging 12 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.6 steals in the four games since he returned from a knee injury that kept him out 15 games. Ball went 6-for-10 on 3-pointers in a 116-112 win at the Spurs on Saturday night, and is 14-for-22 from beyond the arc since his return, inching his season mark to 33.6 percent.
"He went from hitting the side of the backboard to he can't miss now," Lakers forward Julius Randle told NBA.com. "He's just confident out there making plays, making huge, huge shots down the stretch for us."
Randle moved into the starting lineup shortly after Portland last faced the Lakers and his scoring average has increased every month. He averaged 19.4 points in February and has scored 25 points in both victories in March to bump his season average to 15.1
Maurice Harkless scored a team-high 22 points off the bench in the win against the Lakers in December, but he sat out the win against Oklahoma City on Saturday night with a left patellar tendon strain that occurred in a 109-99 victory over the Timberwolves on Thursday.
Evan Turner started in his place and scored 17 points.
Updated March 4, 2018